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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: September 03, 2008

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 36 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.

This information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance ACS News Service Weekly PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.

News Items in this Edition

“Smart water” may help boost production from oil wells by 60 percent

Researchers in Norway report that injecting a special type of seawater called “smart water” into certain low-yield oil wells may help boost oil extraction by as much as 60 percent. The study could help meet rising energy demands and provide consumers with some financial relief at the gas pump in the future, the scientists suggest. Their findings are scheduled for the Sept. 10 issue of ACS’ Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Tor Austad and colleagues note that more than 50 percent of the world’s oil reserves — billions of gallons of oil — are trapped in oil reservoirs composed of calcium carbonate, rocks that include chalk and limestone. Scientists now inject seawater into chalk-based oil wells to boost oil extraction, but researchers do not know if the method will work for oil wells composed of limestone, a tough material known for its low oil-recovery rates — usually less than 30 percent, but in some cases less than 5 percent.

To find out, the scientists collected core samples from Middle East oil reservoirs composed of limestone and soaked them in crude oil for several weeks. They then prepared batches of so-called “smart water,” seawater formulated with sulfate and other substances to improve seawater’s ability to penetrate limestone. In laboratory studies, they showed that irrigating the limestone samples with “smart water” led to the same fundamental chemical reactions that occur in chalk. Upcoming experiments will verify if the efficiency in oil recovery is comparable to the observations in chalk, the scientists note. — MTS

An advance on new generations of chemotherapy and antiviral drugs

Researchers are describing progress toward developing a new generation of chemotherapy agents that target and block uncontrolled DNA replication — a hallmark of cancer, viral infections, and other diseases — more effectively than current drugs in ways that may produce fewer side effects. Their article is scheduled for the Aug. 27 issue of ACS’ Biochemistry, a weekly journal.

In the article, Anthony J. Berdis updates and reviews worldwide research efforts to develop drugs that target DNA polymerases, the enzymes responsible for assembling DNA from its component parts. Several promising strategies are already in use that inhibit uncontrolled DNA replication, particularly in anticancer therapy, but most produce severe side effects and are hampered by drug resistance, the researcher notes.

Berdis says that one of the more promising strategies to date involves the use of so-called nucleoside analogues, artificial pieces of DNA that inhibit replication by substituting for natural segments. Most nucleoside analogues directly target the active site of the polymerase enzyme, a non-specific approach that can also harm healthy cells which contain the enzyme. Berdis describes an alternative approach in which the drugs directly target damaged DNA while avoiding healthy DNA, side-stepping the polymerase enzymes of normal cells. The development, which shows promise in preliminary lab studies, could lead to improved nucleoside analogues with fewer side effects, he says. — MTS

Marijuana ingredients show promise in battling superbugs

Substances in marijuana show promise for fighting deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections, including so-called “superbugs,” without causing the drug’s mood-altering effects, scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom are reporting. Besides serving as infection-fighting drugs, the substances also could provide a more environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic antibacterial substances now widely used in personal care items, including soaps and cosmetics, they say. Their study is scheduled for the Sept. 26 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Natural Products.

In the new study, Giovanni Appendino and colleagues point out that scientists have known for years that marijuana contains antibacterial substances. However, little research has been done on those ingredients, including studies on their ability to fight antibiotic resistant infections, the scientists say.

To close that gap, researchers tested five major marijuana ingredients termed cannabinoids on different strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a “superbug” increasingly resistant to antibiotics. All five substances showed potent germ-killing activity against these drug-resistant strains, as did some synthetic non-natural cannabinoids, they say. The scientists also showed that these substances appear to kill bacteria by different mechanisms than conventional antibiotics, making them more likely to avoid bacterial resistance, the scientists note. At least two of the substances have no known mood-altering effects, suggesting that they could be developed into marijuana-based drugs without causing a “high.” — MTS

Toward improved antibiotics using proteins from marine diatoms

Researchers in Florida are reporting an advance toward tapping the enormous potential of an emerging new group of antibiotics identical to certain germ-fighting proteins found in the human immune system. Their study, which may help fight the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections, is in the current (August) issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

In the new study, D. Matthew Eby, Glenn Johnson, and Karen Farrington point out that scientists have long eyed the germ-fighting potential of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). These small proteins fight a wide range of bacteria and fungi in the body and have the potential to be developed into powerful drugs to overcome infections that are resistant to conventional drugs. But scientists report difficulty producing effective AMPs because the antibiotics are fragile and easily destroyed in the body. An effective way to stabilize them is needed, they say.

The scientists discovered that some AMPs have properties similar to a shell-building protein derived from marine diatoms, microscopic algae, and that these protective properties may fit the bill. When an AMP was combined with certain minerals, the antibiotic developed a coating of silica nanoparticles. In laboratory studies, the researchers showed that the coating protected the antibiotics from destruction by other chemicals while allowing the release of a controlled antibiotic dose for an extended period of time. They say these features are key to the effective use of AMPs as antibiotics. — MTS

Job applicants beware: It’s getting tougher to trick pre-employment drug tests

Laboratories that perform pre-employment drug screening are fighting back — against hundreds of products now on the market that promise to mask evidence of illicit drug use, according to an article scheduled for the Sept. 8 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Senior Business Editor Melody Voith points out that job applicants now have access to an array of products purported to alter urine samples to hide evidence of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs. Some are supposed to dilute evidence of illicit drugs to levels undetectable by conventional tests. Others used adulterants advertised to inactivate or destroy chemical markers used to identify drugs.

Drug-testers are responding with more sensitive tests that can identify tell-tale chemical signs of diluted urine samples or quickly detect the presence of adulterants. The article also explains that testers may get a boost from proposed new drug testing guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. They would permit use of hair and saliva samples in drug screening of candidates for federal jobs. That screening could indentify illicit drugs more reliably than urine samples alone, the article notes.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS' 236th National Meeting

It's never too late to explore a treasure trove of news sources, background material and story ideas available from the ACS' latest National Meeting, which was held in Philadelphia from August 17-21, 2008. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of more than 9,000 scientific presentations and hundreds of non-technical summaries of those presentations, and access other resources at: www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php.

The ACS Office of Public Affairs also offers recorded video versions of its national meeting "chat room" briefings and accompanying chat transcripts by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive. To use this site, you must first register with Ustream.tv by going to http://ustream.tv/sign-up-step-1. It's free and only takes a minute or two to sign up. To view the archived chat room sessions, proceed by clicking the "Login" button at the top right of the Ustream window and then selecting "Past Clips." Please note that Ustream requires the latest version of Adobe Flash, which can be downloaded without charge at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer.

  • ChemMatters Matters for Journalists

This quarterly ACS magazine for high school chemistry students, teachers, and others explains the chemistry that underpins everyday life in a lively, understandable fashion. ChemMatters is available at www.acs.org/chemmatters. You can also receive the most recent issues by contacting the editor, Pat Pages, at: 202-872-6164 or chemmatters@acs.org.

  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

For Wired Readers

  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Don’t miss this special series of ACS podcasts on some of the 21st Century’s most daunting challenges, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. This sweeping panorama of challenges includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel the global economy; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health. An ongoing saga of chemistry for life — chemistry that truly matters — Global Challenges debuts June 25 with new episodes through December. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners

Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates.

No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser

The ACS Office of Communications is podcasting PressPac contents in order to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broad public audience at no charge.

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PressPac information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.